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Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Breed Guide and Pet Insurance

By Stacy Painter and medically reviewed by JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM
published: November 15, 2023 • 5 min. read
greater swiss mountain dog standing outside

Introduction to Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs

If you’ve been looking for a faithful and family-friendly large dog to add to your household, perhaps the greater Swiss mountain dog would be the perfect addition. These dogs are sometimes referred to as the “Swissy,” and they are known for being gentle, loyal, and strong. They once served as working dogs on farms to herd cattle, but today, they are excellent family companions and do well in dog sports and competitions.

In this Healthy Paws breed guide, we provide details about the greater Swiss mountain dog breed to help you determine if this is the right pet for you and learn how to take the best care of your Swissy’s health.

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Size of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs

Swissies are large dogs. Males weigh 115 – 140 pounds and females weigh 85 – 110 pounds. They are Working Group dogs that vary in size based on exercise levels, genetics, diet, and overall health. These dogs typically take two to three years to reach their final adult size.

Here’s how big you can expect your greater Swiss mountain dog to get as the dog grows from puppyhood to adulthood:  

Weight Chart3 months6 months9 months12 months24 months
Male greater Swiss mountain dogs30 – 40 lbs.60 – 70 lbs.75 – 85 lbs.90 – 100 lbs.110 – 120 lbs.
Female greater Swiss mountain dogs25 – 35 lbs.50 – 60 lbs.65 – 75 lbs.80 – 90 lbs.90 – 100 lbs.

Characteristics of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs

Swissies have an eager-to-please temperament that is sweet and easygoing. They are generally good with other pets and kids, as they are non-aggressive. Although they are protective of a home and will bark if they hear something unexpected, they quickly warm up to new people, too. It is relatively straightforward to train a Swissy because of the dog’s intelligence level and eagerness to please people.

As you get to know a greater Swiss mountain dog’s personality, here’s what you can expect based on their breed characteristics.

Breed CharacteristicLevel (High, Medium, Low)
Affectionate with PeopleHigh
Good with KidsHigh
Good with PetsHigh
Need for ExerciseMedium
Energy LevelHigh
Intelligence LevelMedium
Able to Be TrainedMedium
Amount of BarkingMedium
Amount of SheddingMedium
big beautiful Greater Swiss Mountain Dog lying in grass

History of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs

The greater Swiss mountain dog is one of the oldest dog breeds from Switzerland. They descended from war dogs that Julius Caesar’s legions brought over the Alps to help fight the enemy. The Swiss used these dogs to breed alpine mountain dogs, which led to the development of this breed. The Swissy is the largest and oldest of these descendants and was used on farms and pastures to haul meat and dairy products in carts to market.

The dogs’ numbers dwindled in the 1900s because machines largely replaced their jobs. The Swiss Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1909, and they were brought to the U.S. in 1968. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America formed shortly after that, and the American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed in 1995.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Standard Information

Swissies have a striking appearance and are large, powerful, and confident. These sturdy dogs are heavy-boned and well-muscled, yet they are agile enough to be useful around a farm and labor in mountainous regions.

Here is an overview of the breed standard information for greater Swiss mountain dogs:


  • Gentle and animated expression
  • Almond-shaped, brown eyes
  • Medium-size, triangular ears
  • Flat and broad skull
  • Large, blunt, and straight muzzle
  • Teeth meet in a scissors bite

Neck, Topline, Body:

  • Moderate-length neck that is strong and muscular
  • Topline level from withers to croup
  • Body is full with a slight tuck-up
  • Thick tail from root to tip


  • Long, sloping, and strong shoulders
  • Straight and strong forelegs
  • Pasterns slope very slightly
  • Round and compact feet
  • Dewclaws may or may not be present


  • Broad, strong, and muscular thighs
  • Stifles are moderately bent and taper smoothly
  • Well-arched toes that turn neither in nor out
  • Dewclaws should be removed


  • Dense topcoat about 1 ¼ to 2 inches long
  • Undercoat may be thick and showing
  • Undercoat may be dark gray, light gray, or tawny


  • Black topcoat
  • Markings are rust and white
  • Marking symmetry is desirable
  • White markings on the head and muzzle


  • Good reach in front
  • Powerful drive in the rear
  • Movement with a level back

Caring for Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs

Typically, the best home for a Swissy is with an active family with a large house and yard, plus some experience handling dogs. They are not ideal dogs for first-time pet parents and require socialization from an early age and persistent training. They can excel at dog sports, such as agility courses and weight pulling with the right attention and care.

Here are some general tips for taking the best care of a greater Swiss mountain dog:

Best Living Environments:

  • Not the best apartment dogs
  • Homes with a fenced yard are preferable
  • Prefer cold weather over hot weather

Type of Exercise:

  • Moderate exercise is necessary
  • Daily long walks
  • Playtime in the snow
  • Limit exercise during hot weather
  • Limit running on hard surfaces until two years old

Mental Enrichment:

  • Playtime with family members
  • Agility training courses

Training Strategies:

  • Train the dog to heel beside or behind the person with the leash
  • Start training early due to the dog’s large, powerful size

Grooming Tips:

  • Minimal shedding most of the time
  • Twice-yearly blow-outs when the undercoat comes out
  • Brush the coat once or twice weekly
  • Bathe about once a month
greater swiss mountain dog standing in a field

Common Health Problems of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs

Swissies are generally healthy dogs but are still prone to certain medical issues because of their breeding and genetics. Also, large breed dogs, like the Swissy, are prone to certain orthopedic issues and bloat. Swissies have an average life expectancy of 8 to 11 years.

These are some of the most common health issues that arise with greater Swiss mountain dogs:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Patellar luxation (loose kneecap)
  • Osteochondrosis dissecans
  • Gastric torsion (bloat)
  • Splenic torsion
  • Cataracts
  • Entropion (eyelid flipped inward)
  • Distichiasis (abnormal eyelash growth)
  • Panosteitis (bone condition)
  • Swissy Lick (frantic licking and swallowing of objects, possibly related to gastrointestinal pain)

Diet and Nutrition for Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs

Greater Swiss mountain dogs typically need four to five cups of high-quality, dry dog food daily, divided into two meals. Select a dry food that is formulated specifically for large-breed dogs. These foods have a large kibble size to encourage chewing and reduce the risk of bloat, as well as glucosamine and chondroitin to promote healthy joints and reduce the risk of osteoarthritis.

Where to Adopt or Purchase Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs

If you want to bring a greater Swiss mountain dog into your life, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America is one place to start. The American Kennel Club Marketplace offers listings for purebred Swissy puppies for sale. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Rescue Foundation is a nonprofit charity dedicated to re-homing these dogs and finding loving places for homeless pets to live. You can even find adoption resources on social media, such as the Swissies Looking for Homes Facebook page.

greater swiss mountain dog

Related Breeds

If you like what you’ve been reading about the greater Swiss mountain dog, you may be interested in learning more about other related and similar breeds, too. Here are some other dog breeds to consider before making the final decision to adopt or purchase a dog:

Pet Insurance for Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs

Since large breed dogs like the Swissy have limited lifespans, you’ll want to make the most of every moment with your beloved pup. One of the best things you can do to take care of your Swissy’s health is to enroll your pup in a Healthy Paws pet health insurance plan so that you can provide the best veterinary care available.

Our dog insurance covers accidents, illnesses, breed-specific conditions, alternative care, genetic and hereditary conditions, and emergency care. For pet parents, we offer customizable pricing and flexible deductible and reimbursement options to tailor your monthly premium to fit your budget. When your Swissy needs to see the vet, simply submit a photo of the bill through our mobile app and get reimbursed through our plan. We are able to process most claims within just two days.

To get your greater Swiss mountain dog insurance quote, please visit our website today.

Stacy Painter profile
By Stacy Painter

Stacy has always been an animal lover and has worked in the pet industry and pet insurance specifically for over a decade. As a writer since early childhood, content writing for Healthy Paws pet insurance was a natural career path to combine her two passions. She currently lives in Florida with her boyfriend and Taiwanese rescue dog, Kaya.

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joanna pendergrass
By JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM

JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM, is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer in Atlanta, GA. After graduating from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine with her veterinary degree, JoAnna completed a 2-year research fellowship in neuroscience at Emory University. During this fellowship, she learned that she could make a career out of combining her loves of science and writing. As a medical writer, JoAnna is passionate about providing pet parents at Healthy Paws with clear, concise, and engaging information about pet care. Through her writing, she strives not only to educate pet parents, but also empower them to make good health decisions for their pets. JoAnna is a member of the American Medical Writers Association.

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